Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is one of my favorite spices. It is truly a unique one since no other can replace its distinctive taste and aroma. Most people use ginger for culinary purposes, but ginger has many medicinal benefits as well. It is used to relieve nausea, inflammation and pain, as well as a diuretic. However, you don’t need to waste money buying this spice since it is quite easy to grow ginger at home.
Ginger is very popular in Asian cuisine, including Thai, Japanese and Chinese. Dried ginger or ginger powder is sold as a condiment, but fresh ginger gives dishes more flavor. Shred, dice or mince ginger to add it to your meals. The sharp kick from raw ginger comes from gingerol, an aromatic compound that turns into a sweeter zingerone when dried or heated.
Plenty of people get intimidated by ginger since it grows from rhizomes, like you would grow turmeric which is part of the same family just like cardamom. Rhizomes are not roots, instead they are the tubular part of the plant which crawls and spouts new shoots and roots to keep the plant growing.
Grow Ginger from the Supermarket
You can grow ginger from the one you purchase from the grocery store and keep having an endless ginger supply by doing the same over and over. Select the correct specimens to have a better chance at success. Search for a piece of ginger that is not soggy or dried out. These are probably dead and won’t grow. If you see little horns, eyes or points coming out of the ginger this means it’s ready to grow.
Select a few ginger rhizomes to grow. Around three or four is a good number so at least one grows. Grow ginger from the entire root or cut it into fragments that contain an eye or node so it can sprout. Fragments should be at least 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) in size.
Unfortunately, supermarket ginger is usually treated with a growth retardant to reduce the risk of it sprouting in the store. It is best to purchase organic ginger or from a local farmer. If you have supermarket ginger, it is best to soak the rhizome in water overnight to remove the treatment thus allowing the ginger to grow.
How to Reproduce Ginger
There are a few ways to grow ginger. The easiest way is to plant the rhizomes directly into the ground after soaking them. It is the slowest method but requires less work.
You can also leave the ginger in water until you see roots grow about 1 to 2 inches long. It will take about two weeks for new roots and shoots to start growing. Make sure to change the water every few days. Another way to grow ginger is to place the rhizomes in wet paper towels and place them in a plastic ziplock bag until they develop roots.
Once the roots shoots appear you can plant your ginger in soil. Pick nutrient rich soil that can conserve moisture, but doesn’t become waterlogged. Ideal soil is a bit acidic with a pH of 6 – 6.5. Ginger can be planted in a container that is medium sized since they don’t grow too large and they don’t mind being crowded. You can also plant ginger directly in the garden. Make sure to add compost or fertilizer to the soil.
The hardest part of planting ginger is figuring out in what direction the shoots are coming out of the rhizomes. Make sure that the baby shoots point up and the roots point down. Bury your ginger roots about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) deep. When you grow ginger you may notice roots pushing through the top of the soil, which is completely normal.
How to Take Care of Ginger
Those who grow ginger must keep the soil most, but not waterlogged. As a tropical plant it needs moisture all year. People who live in drier climates will need to water ginger plants more often. Growing ginger indoors is another option for those who live in dry or cold climates because it allows for better control over temperature.
It is best to grow ginger in partial shade, rather than in direct sunlight. Two to five hours of sun per day is enough. Good companion plants for ginger are lemon grass, cilantro, chili peppers, peas, beans, and kaffir lime.
Fusarium is a confusing fungus since it takes a while to show symptoms, so you will think your ginger is dying and is ready to harvest. This condition cannot be cured since the damage is already done by the time the yellowing occurs because there will be dry rot. Bacterial wilt is another infection caused by soil-borne pathogens. Just like fusarium you cannot continue to grow ginger because the leaves will wilt and turn yellow. Rhizomes become stunt and will rot from the inside out.
Nematodes can cause a similar problem than fusarium and bacterial wilt. Leaves become yellow and wilt, especially in hot weather. Ginger loses vigor and the rhizomes will have wet spots which rot.
Prevention is the only cure for all of these ginger problems. Make sure you get healthy soil that is free draining and has plenty of nutrients. Crop rotation helps, except if it’s done with peppers, eggplant, tomatoes or tomatillos because they suffer from fusarium as well. Nematodes are parasites, so you can treat the rhizome with hot water (123°F for 10 minutes) before planting to reduce the nematode problem.
How to Harvest Ginger
It is possible to harvest ginger after eight to ten months but older ginger has better flavor. So it is recommended to grow ginger for a bit longer before harvesting. Baby ginger root has a milder taste which can be obtained four to six months after sprouting.
After the ginger plant flowers it will become dry, which takes about two months on average. Stems will start to turn yellow which means the ginger root is near maturity. Trim your stems about two to three week before you plant to harvest. Harvest after by digging up the whole plant with your hands or a small trowel. Cut the roots from the rest of the plant. Wash and scrub the ginger roots to get them clean and dirt free.
The idea is to keep the cycle going so there is always fresh ginger by picking specimens to plant again and again from your harvest.